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COVID oral antiviral medications now widely available in Wisconsin

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COVID-19 cases are still rising in Wisconsin, though much more slowly than in the previous surge.

Right now, the state is averaging 1,200 cases a day. Last week, the average was around 1,100 a day.

The state is also seeing a slight uptick in hospitalizations.

The Department of Health Services is hoping oral antiviral medication will help keep hospitalizations and deaths down.

There are two medications available at many pharmacies throughout the state.

The drugs have been around for a while but now they are widely available.

“The main message we want to get across to people in the community is that A) these drugs are available. B) for Paxlovid specifically they are very effective in preventing sever disease. Paxlovid’s been shown reduce hospitalization and death by 88%,” said Dr. Jon Meiman. Meiman is the Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health.

He says Paxlovid is particularly effective, even against newer variants of the coronavirus.

“It’s a very effective tool. It’s been shown to be very effective in preventing severe disease and there are many fewer concerns with the development of resistance,” said Meiman. “Obviously, that’s something that we will continue to keep an eye on. It’s something the FDA is closely tracking to see if there’s any signs of additional resistance to that drug. But so far it appears to be very effective regardless of the variant that’s circulating.”

The biggest caveat to these drugs is how quickly they need to be taken.

Both need to be taken within five days of symptom on-set.

That means as soon as you think you might have COVID you need to get tested, get the results, and then talk with your healthcare provider to get a prescription all with five days.

Because of this, Meiman says you shouldn’t wait to see if your symptoms will get worse before reaching out to your provider about the drugs.

“Early on after a COVID infection symptoms can be very mild at first. That by itself is enough reason to get tested and to see if you have COVID-19. Don’t encourage people to wait to see if they get worse. If they are at risk of developing more severe disease, it’s important to get diagnosed as quickly as possible,” said Meiman.

Now that the drugs are more widely available, DHS is encouraging providers to more readily prescribe them.

The drugs are recommended for people who are at high risk of severe COVID illness, hospitalization, or death.

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